The Malta Independent 15 October 2021, Friday

To sing or not to sing

Charles Flores Sunday, 19 September 2021, 10:00 Last update: about 27 days ago

I love watching football, inside a stadium or on TV, but if there is something I abhor about it is the spectacle of two national squads of young players trying to outdo one another when they sing, hands to heaving chests, their national anthems. It is such a fascist-like piece of theatrics that it shouldn't be allowed in a world fast on its way to a global representation of humanity.

Of course, I know I am in a minority. People love pageants and parades, all part of an ancient way how to control the masses, be it for political purposes or sporting ambitions. But to have people actually feeling offended when whole squads, or some of the players, choose to keep mum rather than sing aloud with the music during the playing of national anthems, makes me feel absolutely confounded.

Lately there have been some local football fans who were complaining that most of the players in our national football team were "caught" on TV cameras actually not singing along with the Innu Malti in the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious pre-match ballyhoo of recent international matches. And, horror of horrors, they did not do the chest-thumping ritual some of the other national squads, particularly those from Eastern Europe, always do as if otherwise they'd be risking a civil war back home.

Whether to visibly sing or not to sing one's national anthem should always be a personal choice and not some official mandate. Public pressure, infused by tabloid media jingoism, has made even some of the top stars of modern football joining in the public spectacle and I dare say some of them have awful voices. Not singing your national anthem is neither a crime nor an insult and it is unfair on the players to be coerced into doing it. The best a good player can do for his country is score a goal or avoid letting one in, not singing publicly to satisfy some kind of ultra-nationalistic ardour.

To paint their picture perfect, the local moaners drew attention to the fact that the only Malta squad members who were seen, wow, singing the national anthem were two naturalised immigrants who, by the way, speak perfect Maltese. You could even perceive a whiff of racism in their protestations, sort of "if the coloured lads could do it, why not the rest?"

I admit I have reservations over our national anthem and I have never been one to sing it loudly, but certainly not out of any disrespect. It's just not in me, as is the case with many other people. It is the same with praying and singing in church, after all. There are those who love the congregational feeling with its rituals and manifestations, and they have every right to do so, just as there are those who prefer to pray and sing within the intimacy and depth of their own souls, in church or away from it, and they have every right, too.

It is gratifying to note the local football authorities do not seem to have "asked" their players to sing the national anthem and actually be seen singing it. Forget, the chest-thumping. These players are selected for their exceptional talents and should not be subjected to undue pressures from extreme nationalism. It is strictly a personal choice the players have to make and I will always be proud to note there are those who have refused to be turned into robots. Not singing or not seen singing the national anthem is no act of treason, for pete's sake.


Have the Danes got it right?

The issue of immigration will always be a thorn in Europe's backside. Wherever they are, people will always want to seek better lives, especially when fleeing from wars (often induced by Western powers and ex-colonisers), famine and dictatorships, but when the droves turn into an exodus, recipient countries and their populations react in defence under various pretexts, such as religious and moral values, jobs and cultural impact.

It is the one major issue that currently most threatens European unity. With the expected "invasion" of Afghan refugees there have already been the adverse comments of governments and their leaders making it clear they are simply not interested in getting involved. Austria, Hungary and Poland, the three of which consider themselves Christian strongholds, were quick to say so, even if the first to be hit by the Afghan tsunami will probably be those EU member states in the south which have already been desperately dealing with massive illegal immigration.

Now it seems that there are also no ideological borders to tackle the forthcoming onslaught, what with the Danish government, of social democrat extraction, announcing migrants who are accepted into the country will have to work for their welfare payments. Not surprisingly, the European Left finds itself hugely divided on this one too. On one side there are those who insist that the Danish example will, in the long run, be good for both the migrants and Danish society, while others have expressed their ire and look at it as just a part of "crackdowns on immigrants and immigration".

These mixed signals will multiply should other member states take the same measure. The Danes have stated: "If you come to Denmark, you have to work and support yourself and your family ... if one cannot support oneself, one must have a duty to participate and contribute what is equivalent to a regular working week to receive the full welfare benefit." They also argue that the new policy will have a number of benefits, and on top of that list is integration, claiming that unemployment among migrants prevents them from integrating into Danish society.

Have they got it right?


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